Sunday, March 18, 2018

Up With The Lark (1943)

This is a musical comedy starring Ethel Revnell and Gracie West (who made their name as radio comedians) as inept detectives who accidentally begin investigating a gang of black marketeers. Their investigation switches to the countryside where they pose as a pair of Land Army girls and much hilarity ensues (well quite a bit anyway though it does become rather corny at times).

What kind of film is this? It's the kind of film where a gangster dresses as a skeleton to scare people away from a ruined church (used as the black marketers' base) - a lot funnier than it sounds.

Don't expect a proper investigation, the detective pair bumble their way along and succeed in the end despite their best efforts.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Hard Ticket To Hawaii (1987)

An Andy Sidaris film that includes lots of breasts, guns, more breasts, a snake and even more breasts. It is unashamedly low-brow but also high-fun but mostly because it is so ridiculous.

The film stars a couple of obscure actors with all female roles played by Playboy Playmates. To be fair to some of the latter their acting is not as bad as it could have been (though it is bad). The plot is bad too, involving diamond smuggling and a contaminated snake, but forget the plot - it is not that important in a film like this! The film is really a sequence of often bizarre scenes and lots of violence and gratuitous nudity. And boy is there a lot of the latter. The female cast strip off with great regularity and for little apparently reason.

It is a film where a blow-up doll is blown up with a bazooka, a snake explodes out of a toilet and secret orders are hidden in a sandwich (which is then set on fire). The film is a cult classic and deservedly so.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Killer Shrews (1959)

A typical 1950s US monster movie complete with mad scientists and terrible special effects. James Best (who later played Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane in the Dukes of Hazzard) plays a ship captain who gets marooned on an island during a hurricane. There he discovers a small scientific community besieged by giant killer shrews...

The shrews (the result of an experiment gone wrong of course) have run out of other food and now are after human flesh. It's all very B-movie and low budget. The killer shrews are kept obscure for much of the movie probably because when they are finally shown they are completely ridiculous: basically barely disguised dogs.

All pretty formulaic and total nonsense but quite a lot of fun and at times quite scary. The human tank is genuinely innovative.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Free to Love (1925)

Clara Bow stars as a girl wrongly punished for a crime who then adopted and given a new life by the regretful judge who had once condemned her, assisted (and romanced) by minister Donald Keith. However she finds it hard to escape the rough life she has tried to leave behind.

A charming film as always with Clara though the plot is somewhat far fetched (the judge adopts Clara mere minutes after she pulled a gun on him!) The contrast between life at both ends of the social spectrum is quite illuminating. A rather compelling crime / melodrama. You know it will all end up happily for tea though... but how?

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Kill (1971)

Quite simply the weirdest James Mason film I've ever seen. He plays an Interpol agent in this European co-production hunting down a rogue assassin who is killing heroin pushers. Well that sounds straight forward enough.

The thing is the film is rather eccentric, and suggests that copious amounts of recreational stimulants may have been involved in it's production...

The scenes in Pakistan especially involving Jean Seberg and Stephen Boyd score highly on the strange-o-meter. Especially as the latter wanders through Pakistani villages dressed head to toe in leather and no one bats an eyelid.

The film is odd and pretty surreal, and also very violent. Some of the action scenes are pretty good, especially the car-bike chase. But ultimately the film makes little sense and has rather a stereotyped view of life in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Definitely a film of it's time.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Crosstrap (1962)

Crosstrap is an interesting example of a 1960s British B-movie with a rather dark if ultimately a bit confusing storyline.

The film stars Gary Cockrell and Jill Adams as a couple who rent an isolated country cottage only to find there is a dead body in it!

Such things can usually ruin a holiday to be honest, especially when they find the cottage is being used as a hideout by a bunch of gangsters led by Lawrence Payne. Things turn even worse when a rival gang arrive and start shooting! Payne also plans for a different kind of "hit" on Adams.

The storyline is interesting and the film is a reasonable watch but is let down a bit by being somewhat confusing at times and also a bit silly at others. For curiosity and obscurity value it can't be beat though. The film was thought lost for a number of decades though a print was finally tracked down a few years ago.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Block-Heads (1938)

One of the later classic Laurel & Hardy films. They were the masters of comedy for sure. Few have ever approached their level of genius but their stars began to decline after this film which is maybe one of their last "great" films.

In "Block-Heads" they play a pair of World War One veterans, though Ollie has apparently not been told the war ended in 1918 and twenty years later was still at his guard post!

Finally relieved of duty he heads back over to the US and is reunited with his old comrade Stan, now in a rather fractious marriage, and then much mayhem ensues mostly in an apartment block with various gags and explosive antics (some literally).

Interestingly the film included quite a bit of recycling. Parts of the story were adapted from two 1920s Laurel & Hardy films and the WW1 battle scenes were taken from a number of earlier films including The Big Parade and Wings.

Monday, March 5, 2018

They Paid With Bullets: Chicago 1929 (1969)

This is a Spanish-Italian film on the 1920s gangster scene in Chicago, and quite possibly one of the oddest films I've ever seen (and I've seen a lot).

Country boy Frank (Guglielmo Spoletini) gets drawn into the gangster war taking place in Chicago by accident and joins the gang of slick (and quite mad) Erik (Peter Lee Lawrence) rising through the ranks and eventually challenging Erik for his gang and his gal.

It is all glorious madness, the story is quite flimsy and held together by very frequent gunfights with tommy guns (all very badly choreographed but undeniably exciting). The acting is curious, ranging between vague and terrible (not helped by the bad dubbing - the version I saw switched between English and German dubs a few times for some reason). The film is brilliant obviously.

Gangster moll Ingrid Schoeller steals the show with her mysterious cabaret routines, epic sexiness... and randomly playing around with a voodoo doll.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Jigsaw (1962)

Based on a true story Jigsaw is a good solid and atmospheric police procedural following a murder investigation. Jack Warner leads the investigation which takes place mostly in Brighton.

The police investigation is quite complicated with a lot of good old fashioned thorough investigation. This is easy to portray in a multi-episode TV series but more challenging in a single film with limited time, however this film pulls it off with fast pacing and many short scenes.

The film lacks much in what you would call "action", its a realistic police investigation that is being shown - expect checking ledgers not high speed car chases and what a refreshing film is it for all that.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Mongkok Story (1996)

Mongkok Story is decent if unspectacular HK Triad film, definitely from the Young & Dangerous slash-tastic stable rather than the more cerebral side of the genre like Election. Not that that is a bad thing of course.

However when you see Mongkok Story you will probably get a feeling of deja vu as it re-treads familiar ground covered so often in HK cinema. Edmond Leung plays a young waiter who is seduced by the glamour of being a Triad, especially the local small-time hoodlums who frequent his cafe and their Dailo Roy Cheung. He joins this group but finds the Triad life is not so wonderful after all...

So when his Dailo is killed by the rival gang Edmond thirsts for revenge. So begin the slashing! Overall the film is pretty good stuff though nothing you haven't seen before. Good action and a slightly surprising ending.